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CONCORD, N.C. -- Ticktock, ticktock.
The first practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway was under way on Thursday and Tony Stewart's car sat idle in the garage.
Apparently, the two-time Sprint Cup champion was caught in interstate traffic because he didn't realize one of the back roads was closed.
Four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon -- heck, most of the field -- were back from their first run and still no Stewart.
Stewart finally ran into the garage, smiled sheepishly at his crew and crawled behind the wheel of his No. 14 Chevrolet. He took a minute or so to get his equipment in place and then took off eight minutes late.
We don't often think of drivers as having the same problems as us. If they run into traffic, there has to be a helicopter around the corner waiting to save them. If they run out of gas, there's a truck nearby ready to fill the tank.
But when you really get to know these guys, you understand they make the same silly mistakes we do. Heck, Johnson thought the series went to Talladega next weekend instead of Martinsville.
"I just get on a plane, and where it drops me off, I get off," Johnson said when asked if he really didn't realize what venue was next on the schedule.
Stewart probably wished he had a helicopter when he was sitting in traffic, but it turned out to be no big deal. After a slow start, he finished sixth in practice and was in a good mood by the time he got to us, which doesn't happen all the time.
"I'm pretty sure since we're sixth on the board we're all right," Stewart said.